Things to think about

Humans have always tended to their own dead. People died at home, and relatives prepared the body.  In modern times, we laid it out in the parlor and sat by as callers paid final respects. The body was buried in the family cemetery, if there was one, or on the back 40; pieties were spoken, and life went on until the next person died. Death, if not a welcome visitor, was a familiar one. This changed, incrementally, during the Civil War, when others were paid to undertake the job of transporting the bodies of soldiers killed far from home; this is when formaldehyde as an embalming agent was first used. Soon the gravely ill as well were deemed too taxing, and moved to hospitals to die. Within decades, what had for millennia been familial responsibilities were appropriated by professionals.

Proponents of home funerals and of green burials, wherein bodies are interred in natural environments and in ways that promote decomposition, insist that this country’s “death-denying tradition,” in Lyons’ term, is not merely costly but corrosive to body and spirit, to land and communities. Fear and doubt crept into the space left when we handed death to others, and our attendant helplessness supports the multibillion-dollar death-care industry. Discover more about more information on gas boilers at .

 Home preparation of the deceased, without an undertaker’s involvement, is legal in every state but New York, Louisiana, Indiana and Nebraska.  The body can lie in state at home for up to three days, and perhaps longer, provided measures are taken within the first six to 12 hours.

In the July/August 2004 issue of the AARP Bulletin, the AARP website polled readers, asking: “Which type of burial is most appealing?”

 Only 8.1% wanted a traditional cemetery burial; 18.6% picked cremation, while 2.9% went for “exotic burial,” such as being shot into space. The rest, a stunning 70.4%, chose green burial.  Which is not surprising, considering that a sizable number of AARP’s 35 million members are baby boomers, a generation that never met a ritual it didn’t want to retool.

These are the folks who wrote their own marriage vows and demanded home birth and hospices, and now they’re burying parents and considering their own final arrangements.  They’re looking for alternatives to being pumped with chemicals that demean the body and degrade the earth, and caskets that cost as much as cars!

A green funeral incorporates environmentally-friendly options. A green funeral may include any or all of the following: a small gathering in a natural setting, use of only recycled paper products, locally-grown  flowers, , no embalming, the use of sustainable biodegradable clothing, shroud or casket, and natural  burial.

In natural burial, the body is buried, without embalming, in a natural setting. Any shroud or casket that is used must be biodegradable, nontoxic, and of sustainable material. Traditional standing headstones are not permitted. Instead, flat rocks, plants or trees may serve as grave markers.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, in 2006 cost of regular adult funeral included the following basic items. This does NOT include cemetery plot, a monument/marker miscellaneous cash purchases such as for flowers or obituaries.  This generally ads another $3-5,000, bringing the true total to about $10,00 – $12,000 for a traditional burial.

2006 NFDA General Price List Survey. NFDA will release new data in 2010.  REMEMBER TO ADD the other $3,000 – $5,000 costs listed above.  Real total?  $10,000 – $12,000 for a modest funeral.

In Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska and New York, laws require that a funeral director handle human remains at some point in the process. In the 44 other states and the District of Columbia, loved ones can be responsible for the body themselves.

This means you may care for your departed loved one at home, following some simple steps.  Keeping them on dry ice allows you to have family and friends come visit, and hold a vigil or ceremony of your choosing.  If you live in a rural area, you have the right to bury them on family land after following some simple steps.   In any case, you may bury your loved one WITHOUT the intrusive, expensive process of embalming.  IT IS NOT REQUIRED BY LAW in most states.  You may opt for a simple box rather than an expensive steel coffin.  In some cemetaries, you do not even have to have a coffin. 

What this means is that you can erase the cost of a funeral home, a viewing room and fee, an expensive coffin, intrusive and expensive embalming, and many transport fees.  Depending on your cemetery (home, church or commercial cemetery), you can remove a huge part of the lot fees as well. 

Bottom line, you can have a dignified, peaceful process in which YOU are in control, and for only $500 – $2,000 dollars – TOTAL.